At BPS, our project planning strategy revolves around 4 simple steps: think it, plan it, do it and check it. With this simple mantra in mind, we’ve put together our top tips for ensuring whatever the scope or scale of your project that you have the tools and the mindset to succeed.
Use our basic project planning exercise below to help you visualise, strategise and implement your project plan!
Think It: Project Planning Step One
Examine the overall project or task – and ask yourself, your team and your stakeholders a series of simple questions to help break it down into manageable chunks. We recommend a brainstorming session based on the 6 W’s – the Why, Who, What, Where, When & hoW.
- What are the goals of the project? Is it business expansion, increasing profits, or more general improvement? Consider the What & Why
- What is the scope of the project? Is it new offices, a new shop, or staff training – the What & Where
- Are there any drivers for the project? Are they seasonal, do they have an expiry date? Think about Why.
- What is the timeframe for the project? When will it start, and when is it expected to finish? The When.
- What are the expected outcomes of the project?
- What will be the measure of the outcomes? Consider the metrics & KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)
- Who is to be involved with the project? Think about who are the key stakeholders, decision makers, and staff involved.
- What are the key milestones of the project? Are there key events, perhaps a launch or opening for a specific milestone.
- What is the budget for the project? Consider the What and HoW in monetary terms.
- What are the tasks or deliverables involved? Think about the high level to begin with.
BPS Top Tip
If a task or deliverable is too large, break it down into smaller ones. These can be elements such as
How long will each task take? (hoW & When)
Who will do each task? (Who)
What are the unknowns at present?
Are there any potential risks or impacts to the project? (What if)
What are the contingencies for the project? Consider time & money, and your Plan B (What If)
What is your exit strategy? What happens if your project fails?(What if)
Write it down – we recommend post-it notes, a note paper or any paper you may have to hand. Getting these ideas down in writing will solidify the beginning of your project plan.
Plan It: Project Planning Step Two
Use the answers, ideas and unknowns from above to start mapping out the project. Write a scope statement, list your deliverables, and define roles & responsibilities (an organogram will help with this!), and create project documents.
BPS Top Tip
Get some lining paper, a cheap brown wrapping paper roll, or even use an empty office wall to start putting your post-its or notes across a timeframe (ensure this is between the start and finish post-its).
From the lining paper or wall exercise, write down or record all the tasks in the order they have been posted, and assign an individual or group to each task.
Then give each task an expected duration, and if possible, a start and finish date. From there, give each task a cost value or estimate if unknown.
You can now develop a realistic plan/schedule and cost estimate. Use a planning tool or software at this stage (if you are familiar with one) to create a simple end to end view of the project.
Review and optimise the plan / schedule to see what activities can run together, to reduce the overall project time. Factor in any limitations your team might have (such as holidays, manpower, availability, outside help).
Pinpoint which tasks need additional resources and list these down. Then determine what tasks are interdependent, as these are the ones that have potential for knock on delays (what we call the Domino effect).
Finally – issue the Plan! Ensure everyone knows what they are doing and when – this will be the key to success.
Do It: Project Planning Step Three
Possibly the easiest section to say, but often the hardest to follow! Our mantra is Plan the Work, Work the Plan. Whilst it is important to follow the plan, we know how sometimes things crop up and a plan can change.
This is the time when problems and issues emerge that may not have previously been thought about (what we call the unknowns). Where possible, add the unknowns into the plan so that they’re known to all.
You can then direct the team and your outside resources to complete their tasks. Communication at this stage is key, so ensure your whole team knows the plan and their role within it.
BPS Top Tip
A plan is a guide: one to stick to, but be careful not to be too rigid as you may cause your own delays. Allow for some flexibility, as things done out of sequence may benefit others on the project.
Check It: Project Planning Step Four
The final planning stage is to check how your plan is being implemented, to monitor progress and ensure things are on track. Check the work, and report progress back into the plan. Aspects to check as a minimum are:
- The date the task started
- How long it took
- The percentage of your task that is complete and / or the date it finished
- Any delays or works done out of sequence.
Communicate to your team any problems or issues, but also communicate the successes and early wins.
BPS Top Tip
Regular monitoring and reporting will help prevent the project slipping, and give time for project recovery if needed.
Consider lessons learned and feedback. This is often an area that is missed, or only partially carried out, and it’s key to build it into the project plan.
During any project it is valuable to gain feedback from your team. This feedback will give early warnings to potential problems, giving you more time to make informed decisions to resolve the issues. Otherwise, you can be under pressure and be forced to make rash decisions because of lack of time, from trying to keep the project on track. These often have the opposite effect and cause future delays, when things have to be changed as a result of a rushed outcome.
Use the lessons learned in feedback, both good and bad, to improve how you deliver your next project.
Planning from these 4 easy steps leads into more detailed planning actions that are invaluable tools to have in your arsenal for any future project. If you’d like to see a more detailed project plan, see the sub elements in figure 1 – our Planning Wheel.
With the right attitude and the right mindset, anything is possible. And BPS Ltd are here every step of the way to support businesses and organisations, large and small, in achieving their goals.